Monday, February 7, 2011

Hundreds mourn killed journalist as assaults on media continue

Hundreds mourn killed journalist as assaults on media continue

Egyptian anti-government demonstrators and journalists stage a symbolic funeral for colleague Ahmed Mohammed Mahmud (picture), killed during clashes with pro-government supporters on February 4, at Cairo's Tahrir square on February 7, 2011 on the 14th day of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. (AFP PHOTO/ KHALED DESOUKI)

By Tamim Elyan / Daily News EgyptFebruary 7, 2011, 11:20 pm

CAIRO: Hundreds of journalists and protestors organized a symbolic funeral Monday in Tahrir Square for Ahmed Mahmoud, a journalist at Al-Ahram Foundation, who died last Friday as a result of a gunshot head injury in his office.

The protestors called for the prosecution of President Hosni Mubarak who they said was responsible of Mahmoud's death. They attacked Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the Journalists' Syndicate, for his "weak reaction".

Mahmoud, 36, a journalist at Al-Ta'awon, a publication issued by Al-Ahram, was shot by a police officer on Jan. 29 while taking pictures of the protests from the balcony of his office in Qasr Al-Aini Street.

He was transferred to Qasr Al-Aini hospital by his colleagues after the ambulance refused to take him when they learnt that he was shot by the Ministry of Interior, according to his family, and remained in a coma for five days before passing away last Friday.

"We have evidence against those who killed him and we are filing a complaint to the General Prosecutor and the syndicate has also filed a case," Enas Abdel Aleem, Mahmoud's wife, told Daily News Egypt.

"We are accusing the whole regime of killing Mahmoud," she said.

Protestors carried a symbolic wooden coffin covered with the Egyptian flag and marched from the syndicate's headquarters in 26th of July Street to Tahrir Square where they were joined by protesters there.

Egyptian and foreign journalists and media workers have reported assaults on them by thugs with the help of the police.

"I was grabbed by an army officer beside the Egyptian Museum while covering the protest and was kept in custody for one hour and then was released," said Theodore May, reporter for USA Today Magazine.

"I was interrogated on the reason I was there but there was no physical abuse," he added.

Daily News Egypt reporters were held by a street mob in Dokki and were abandoned by a police offcier who refused to intervene. They were only safe when an army officer intervened and rushed them away.

According to a statement by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, CNN, Zuma News Agency, BBC Radio, The Guardian, France24 and the Canadian Globe and Mail were subject to violent arrests at the hands of NDP "gangs" with the help of the Egyptian police.

"Attacks on reporters and media employees are continuing in a viscous and systematic manner with collaboration and incitement from Information Minister," ANHRI alleged.

"Faces changed, but the anti-freedom of expression and the press policies are still intact, and that is what we will not accept again," the statement added.

Khaled Al-Balshy, editor-in-chief of Al-Badil online newspaper, said that their office was attacked on Saturday by a group of seven men armed with rifles and teargas bombs and had a number of journalists detained in the office.

"Before the incident, I received a warning that the office might be attacked so we closed the office for three days and once we returned, we were attacked but luckily no one was hurt until they left," he said.

Al-Balshy claimed the attackers were from the police.

Daily News Egypt was unable to verify this claim.

A photojournalist from Al-Karama newspaper was reportedly attacked Sunday by a 10-man mob near Tahrir Square. They took his camera and left him with a head injury.

"This is an organized campaign fueled by state TV against journalists to hide the truth, especially foreign journalists," said Abeer Saady, board member of the Journalists' Syndicate.

"The attackers usually have information about their targeted journalists and attack their offices so it is likely that they are from the police. The army perceives the protection of journalists is through preventing them from doing their jobs," she added.

The Egyptian government said last week that reports of "an official policy against international media" were false, and that violence against journalists was unacceptable.

"International media have been, and are always, welcome in Egypt," said the state-run Cairo Press Center, which oversees media accreditation. It said more than 1,000 international journalists were in the country.

"Regrettably, international journalists have been endangered by the same conditions that have threatened all Egyptians in areas of the country where there have been major disturbances and a breakdown of security," the center said.

The Journalists Without Rights movement criticized in a statement "the criminal practices" of the regime against media workers and held President Mubarak responsible for them.

"These acts of terrorism by Mubarak's men against freedom of journalism will not prevent his collapse and will not prevent the flow of information to the world," the statement said.

The statement asked journalists to "face the acts of bullying with courage."

According to Saady, the International Federation of Journalists has warned Egyptian authorities from the attacks on journalists and demanded they are provided with adequate protection.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said in a press conference earlier that they gave orders not to hinder the work of journalists and claimed that any violations that take place are "unintentional." –Additional reporting by AP.

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